On June 2nd, Lake County Department of Public Services and the Konocti Regional Trails (KRT) team held a small ceremony on Mt. Konocti’s Wrights Peak to dedicate the seventh in a series of interpretive panels on the mountain. The panel commemorates a fatal plane crash that took two lives nearly 50 years ago.
The sunny June morning in 2016 was a direct contrast to the tragic day in 1970. On January 26th, Mervin and Julia “May” Enzler left Santa Rosa airport to fly home to Ukiah in their white and turquoise 1946 Navion A. The Enzlers had recently retired as owners of the “Model Bakery” in Ukiah, today operating as Schats Courthouse Bakery and Cafe.
Increasingly bad weather forced them to request navigational assistance from air traffic control in Ukiah. After a brief navigational correction with the tower, further contact ceased.
A massive air and ground search was conducted. Due to the remote location and lack of access, it wasn’t until early February that the crash debris was spotted on the side of the mountain by a local pilot.
The wreckage was largely forgotten until the fall of 2011, when the road sides were cleared for the opening of Mt. Konocti Regional Park, once again uncovering the aircraft.
An increasing number of phone calls requesting information on the plane debris prompted then-Calfire Batallion Chief, Greg Bertelli, to contact KRT members about installing a commemorative plaque at the site near the Calfire lookout tower. KRT then researched the family, tracking down the Enzler’s son, Ed Enzler, now in his 80’s and still living in Mendocino County.
After initial discussions, Mr. Enzler agreed to collaborate with KRT’s Tom Nixon, and Kelseyville’s Emmy-award winning art designer Gerri Groody, on an interpretive panel depicting his parents’ tragic deaths.
The Lakeport Rotary Club volunteered to pay for the panel and installation, culminating in the June ceremony. Attending were the Enzler family (son, Ed Enzler and grandchildren Steve Enzler, Scott Enzler, Karen Adamski and Eileen Husted), members of the Lakeport Rotary Club represented by president, Jennifer Strong, Lake County Department of Public Services Dana Smalley, and KRT members headed by Tom Nixon, who has spearheaded all seven panel projects to-date.
This was the first time most of the Enzler family had seen the plane crash, resulting in some poignant moments and memories. The gathering ended with a trip to the top of the Calfire lookout tower for 360 degree views of the mountain, and side tours to visit Mary Downen’s cabin and the ancient maul oak grove.
Six other interpretive panels covering cultural and natural history were previously installed on Mt. Konocti via a State Parks grant.
Mt. Konocti Regional Park is open daily from dawn to dusk, and accessible via hiking only. For more information on Mt. Konocti Regional Park, visit the website at www.KonoctiTrails.com or call Lake County Public Services at 707-263-1618.